- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

GREENSBORO, N.C. — John Edwards‘ defense team rested Wednesday without calling the two-time Democratic presidential candidate or his one-time mistress to the witness stand, a sign of confidence after presenting little more than two days of testimony and evidence.

The defense had called a series of witnesses aimed at shifting the jury’s focus from the lurid details of a political sex scandal to the legal question of whether Mr. Edwards‘ actions violated federal campaign finance laws.

Prosecutors spent nearly three weeks trying to convince a jury that Mr. Edwards masterminded a conspiracy to use nearly $1 million secretly provided by two wealthy donors to help hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he sought the White House in 2008.

Many people watching the case believed Mr. Edwards would testify so the jury could hear directly from the former U.S. senator and trial lawyer, who had a reputation for his ability to sway jurors. But putting Mr. Edwards on the stand was also a gamble: It would have exposed him to withering cross-examination about his past lies and personal failings.


Most experts were convinced calling Miss Hunter to testify would have dredged up more negatives and lies. The defense also elected not to question Mr. Edwards‘ oldest daughter, Cate, who has sat behind Mr. Edwards nearly every day of the trial and could have helped humanize him. At one point during the trial, she ran out of the courtroom in tears during testimony about her cancer-stricken mother confronting her father about his extramarital affair.

The judge told jurors that no more witnesses would be called and closing arguments would be Thursday, with the jury likely beginning deliberations Friday.

Mr. Edwards is charged with six criminal counts including conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, accepting contributions that exceeded campaign finance limits, and causing his campaign to file a false financial disclosure report.

He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges.

Mr. Edwards has sat quietly at the defense table throughout his trial, whispering with his lawyers and rarely showing reaction to the often emotional testimony from witnesses who were once among his strongest supporters and closest friends. He has made no public statements since October, following a pre-trial hearing where a judge refused to throw out the criminal case against him.

“After all these years, I finally get my day in court and people get to hear my side of this, and what actually happened,” he said last year on the steps of the federal courthouse in Greensboro. “What I know with complete and absolute certainty is I didn’t violate campaign laws and I never for a second believed I was violating campaign laws.”

At the trial, prosecutors have shown two members of Mr. Edwards‘ inner circle, campaign finance chairman Fred Baron and once-close aide Andrew Young, engaged in a yearlong cover-up to hide the married presidential candidate’s mistress from the media. Mr. Young, who is married, falsely claimed paternity of his boss’s baby and received $725,000 in secret checks from an elderly heiress, using some of the money to care for Miss Hunter.